September 13, 2018 6:30 AM - by Bob Woodward - Subscribe

Bob Woodward reveals in unprecedented detail the harrowing life inside President Donald Trump’s White House and precisely how he makes decisions on major foreign and domestic policies. Woodward draws from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand sources, meeting notes, personal diaries, files and documents. The focus is on the explosive debates and the decision-making in the Oval Office, the Situation Room, Air Force One and the White House residence.
posted by DirtyOldTown (15 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Went to reserve at the library...

1240 holds on first copy returned of 121 copies
posted by sammyo at 6:40 AM on September 13, 2018 [7 favorites]

The characterization of Trump in this book is really striking. Woodward doesn't portray him as particularly stupid, just too entitled and self-absorbed to feel the need to invest any intellectual rigor, focus, or deep thought. Functionally, that makes him stupid, but it's not the same thing as just not having the faculties.

Woodward also definitely buys into the idea of Trump as amoral. He's not evil, he's just so rich and entitled as to be completely insulated from the consequences of anything he might do to get what he wants.

1) It's only wrong if they can nail you for it.
2) I'm too powerful for them to nail me for anything.
3) Ergo, I cannot really do anything wrong.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:31 AM on September 13, 2018 [12 favorites]

I think "so rich and entitled as to be completely insulated from the consequences of anything he might do to get what he wants" seems like a perfectly valid definition of evil.
posted by pjsky at 10:03 AM on September 13, 2018 [11 favorites]

Amorality is often, maybe even usually, functionally indistinguishable from immorality.

But I think Trump is a walking object lesson in privilege run amok and you lose that lesson if you don't recognize a difference between the two.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:11 AM on September 13, 2018 [3 favorites]

Woodward doesn't portray him as particularly stupid, just too entitled and self-absorbed to feel the need to invest any intellectual rigor, focus, or deep thought.

Jesus this sounds like so many people I know.
posted by bleep at 6:33 PM on September 13, 2018 [1 favorite]

I swear to god, I am convinced Bannon is a primary source on this. There are just SO MANY conversations where the most reasonable possible source is Bannon himself. Woodward treats him with kid gloves, too.

Woodwward lets even Bannon's most questionable political declarations and stated positions rest at face value. (Admittedly, Woodward does that with everyone, as he's more interested in machinations and process than philosophical underpinnings. But still... in Bannon's case, you would expect some minor editorial pushback.) The most damning thing he's said about Bannon in the first quarter of the book is that he dresses bad and is vulgar and those are both parts of Bannon's own brand. He does sort of put in a few dry moments where someone who isn't of the GOP/Trump tribe will marvel at how much Bannon is kidding himself about Donald, but those likely wouldn't even register with Bannon.

Woodward also presents Bannon as someone bringing in a certain street-fighting gutsiness to his moves, someone with a real gift for playing outside the normal marked lines of the game.

Anyway, put it all together and my pet theory is that Bannon is absolutely a contributing source.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:12 AM on September 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

So far I've only read three chapters and it's clear to me that Bannon is a primary source. As is Kellyanne Conway and probably Reince Priebus. There's a conversation between Trump and Conway in which it's made clear that everyone else was sent out of the room. I suspect, as I read further, that it will look like basically EVERYBODY talked to Woodward, except Trump.

The only way to discredit this book would be to have an entire billion dollar alternative media operation going back more than 20 years that's been conditioning the public to distrust all mainstream media ...

posted by wabbittwax at 7:32 AM on September 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

I think a lot of progressives are probably irritated by Woodward's unwavering commitment to trying to be even handed. it makes him feel toothless at times when red meat is served up right in front of him and he demurs.

But that's also what makes this so damning. It's no clip job. He's trying to be as fair as he can. It looks this bad because even someone trying to be as fair as possible cannot present it any other way.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:30 AM on September 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

The Grauniad says 750,000 copies sold already.

That's ... a lot of books.
posted by chavenet at 9:01 AM on September 14, 2018

Come on, book...hurry up...get to Japan!
posted by sacchan at 5:58 PM on September 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

From that Guardian article: "Co-owner Bradley Graham said that there had been bulk purchases from officials from foreign embassies. “One purchased 13 copies,” said Graham. “Another asked for four.”"
posted by el io at 9:26 PM on September 14, 2018

I don't spend much time in FanFare so hope this is OK to ask but - can anyone who's read Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury and is reading Woodward's book compare them? I read Wolff's book when it came out and it definitely had Bannon's fingerprints on it and it was pretty soapy. I'm wondering whether it's worth my time to read this one.

posted by mostly vowels at 7:31 PM on September 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

You might have more luck making that an AskMe since there might be ppl who read both who don’t visit fanfare (similar to yourself)
posted by bleep at 7:41 PM on September 15, 2018

Graham Greene used to differentiate between his literary novels and his "entertainments." Fire and Fury was an entertainment. I enjoyed it and I thought that it had a lot of truthiness, but it also seemed like an awful lot of it was straight out of the mouth of Steve Bannon. I have not finished Fear yet and I have some issues with it, but it's an actual book. I think that Woodward talked to everyone and confirmed stories with multiple sources and Wolff repeated anything that anybody told him.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 9:40 PM on September 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

Other observations (I'm about halfway through now):

--Lindsay Graham is best understood as "The Top Dog's Best Boy." He used to be McCain's guy, so he said all of the "voice of reason" things that went with that association. Now he's Trump's, so his publicly job is to back POTUS's bullshit up. Privately, he seems to specialize in ego-propping and giving advice on how to manipulate to get what you want.
-Trump does come across as having honestly wanted to be president, and as sincerely having several main goals/beliefs on which he wanted to act. Thing is, one of those ideas is truly stupid (We must end trade deficits!) and another (extricating us from the Middle East) is something on which he's so far out of his depth as to essentially blow with the wind.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:57 AM on September 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

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